Telehealth Ontario continues to experience problems amid coronavirus pandemic

Telehealth Ontario, a phone service to access over-the phone medical advice, continues to be plagued by problems amid the growing COVID-19 outbreak.

On Monday, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the government was immediately adding 130 nurses to increase capacity as the service is flooded with calls.

“By immediately expanding Telehealth’s resources, we can significantly reduce the time it takes for Ontarians to receive the information they need to stay safe and healthy,” Elliott said Monday.

However, even getting through has been difficult.

On social media, there are hundreds of complaints about the line not working, a busy signal received, and, once a caller gets through, reports of being disconnected after being in queue for hours.

And on Wednesday, Telehealth had an outage.

“We are currently experiencing technical issues with the Telehealth Ontario Line,” the Telehealth website said.

“During this service interruption, we ask that you contact your local public health unit for immediate support. We are working to resolve this situation, and apologize for any inconvenience.”

On Wednesday, Elliott tweeted the government was moving to add more lines.

“We understand people are having difficulty connecting with Telehealth,” she said.

“Please know we are actively working with the vendor to resolve any immediate issues and as of this morning added an additional 300 lines. More will be done as we further expand capacity in the coming days.”

Medical officials including Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, have repeatedly urged those experiencing symptoms to call Telehealth Ontario first before chooing to go to a medical facility.

As of Monday, the government reports the service had received over 8,000 COVID-19 related calls.

The service, when working, serves to triage callers, provide information and assessment and depending on symptoms, and inform patients on how to self-isolate or seek further care.

There are also reports of registered nurses ready and able to assist that have not been contacted by the government.

In an e-mail to members Tuesday night, Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario wrote, “The province has announced it is expanding TeleHealth service capacity to help address the increased daily call volumes and reduce call wait times. However, we hear from you that you have not been contacted. Please know that we are seeking to understand why Telehealth has failed to bring on board colleagues, especially given the very long wait times people are experiencing when calling. We know that you are ready and eager to help and have communicated this to government.”

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